A Debt of Gratitude

  Thanks to the heroic vigilance of some faithful leaders, last week the House of Representatives passed the Religious Liberty Protection Act, known as RLPA, by a margin of 306 to 118. That vote may have signaled a shifting of the tide in the battle for religious freedom in America--and we owe those congressmen a true debt of gratitude. The Religious Liberty Protection Act has its roots in a terrible 1990 Supreme Court decision called Employment Division v. Smith, which granted the government sweeping new powers to restrict religious freedom. In effect, the court's message was, "believe whatever you want, but the government will decide if you can act on those beliefs." To restore our lost freedoms, in 1993, Congress passed the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. But then, in a remarkable political power grab, the Supreme Court invalidated RFRA. The consequences were alarming: Prison inmates were forbidden to take Bibles to Bible studies; Christians were forced to hire openly gay employees; and in some areas of the country, churches found themselves being zoned out of the community. State and local governments enjoyed free reign to trample on many of our cherished religious convictions. Two years ago, Congressman Charles Canady, a serious Christian, began working on the Religious Liberty Protection Act to correct these abuses. And last week, his efforts paid off when RLPA finally came to the full House for a vote. Majority Leader Dick Armey had to work hard to maneuver to get the bill up for a vote, but he kept his promise and did so. Even then, passage was far from certain. The homosexual lobby was pushing hard for an amendment that would have elevated the gay agenda above the right to free religious exercise. But thanks to your prayers and the vigilance of congressmen like Charles Canady, Tony Hall, Henry Hyde, and Assistant House Majority Whip Roy Blunt, the amendment was defeated and RLPA passed overwhelmingly. This legislative landmark may be the most visible example of an encouraging turn of events in our nation. For example, in the wake of the Columbine High School horror, the House made an important statement by passing a law allowing schools to post the Ten Commandments on their walls. And, perhaps most significantly, last week, a federal appeals court struck down Alabama Federal District Court Judge Ira Dement's stifling and absurd injunction forbidding even private religious speech in public schools and school-related events. These are very healthy developments for the cause of religious liberty. But the battle for religious liberty is far from over. We still need to pray. We ought to give thanks for the passage of RLPA in the House, and pray for the coming battle in the Senate. Just prior to the vote on RLPA, I asked BreakPoint listeners to pray and to call their representatives. Many of you did so, and I'm deeply grateful. And, believe it or not, I'd like you to call your representatives again, too. The expression, "No good deed goes unpunished" has sadly become a stock phrase to describe our all too- common human ingratitude. Our lawmakers in the House worked very hard to make sure RLPA was passed. Too often, they only hear our complaints. So please-- call them again. But this time, just say thank you. [If you aren't sure how your House Member voted, please take a minute to visit the Justice Fellowship web site, where we have posted each Member's vote. Click on To contact your congressional representative, call 1-888-449-3511.]


Chuck Colson


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